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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Sonic Team
PLAYERS:   1-4
January 30, 2001
Phantasy Star 0

Phantasy Star 2

Phantasy Star Portable

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom

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More in this Series
 Written by Akash Suri  on May 15, 2001

Review: The Phantastic Phantasy series goes Online.

One year ago, half of the so-called ?Hard-core? gamers would have no idea of what I was talking about if I mentioned word of this title. In fact, many gamers reading this don't know about the Phantasy Star (PS) legacy, they don't know that four PS RPG's have been released, not to mention the countless collector's editions and compilation discs released in the Far East. But all of that has changed with the advent of Phantasy Star Online (PSO). The internet is abuzz about this revolutionary game, gamers constantly stumble into their first period classes, exhausted from their late night PSO session, yet is it worth the hype? Is it that damn good? Is it worth fifty of your hard-earned bucks? Simply put, Oh Yes!

This is almost THE perfect game; it only has one drawback, which will be discussed later. But the sound, graphics, controls, and fun factor are all unbelievable. Of course, I shall indulge all you eager gamers and go over each part of this magnificent project.

I say this very honestly: These are the best graphics I've ever seen outside of a game demo (MGS2 and Sonic Adventure 2 may be a little better). The attention to detail is mind-blowing, butterflies scuttle across the screen, explosions are perfectly articulated, enemies close in on every side, while messages of ?HEAL ME!? or ?#$@$%? come in from your allies. So much is going on screen at any given time that it's a miracle the game doesn't suffer from pop-up or slowdown. Colors are rich and vibrant, and each section of each area is entirely different. You'll be amazed when you first turn on the game, but you're awe-stuck when you reach the first boss. I never thought that Dreamcast would be capable of this type of performance, man was I wrong. Anywho, graphics are superb and deserve all kinds of awards.

Sound, very well done. Sonic Team is a very audile company, Sonic Adventure had GREAT music, Chu Chu Rocket had very fun music, Samba de Amigo was all about music, and they've done a job with PSO, which is very pleasing to the ear. I simply loved the intro music, it only had one syllable in it (la), but the music was serene yet modern and set the perfect mood for the game. The music during the game is great. Granted, there are really only four or five tracks, but you don't even notice that it repeats. The sound effects are well above par, and while there is no voice acting, Sonic Team still manages to get its message across. Overall, wonderful audio which lives up to the standards that Sonic Team has set for itself.

The controls for PSO are very versatile, you can program up to 6 shortcut commands and use the keyboard to type. The only face button you cannot program is Y, Y is already set to bring up the on-screen keyboard. This can get a little frustrating as most PSO players will have a keyboard and find that their Y button is serving no function whatsoever. The keyboard can only be used to type and has no game play function, but trust me, PSO without a keyboard is like Dance Dance Revolution without the, like Samba De Amigo without the Maracas, like?well?you get the gist of it. You need the keyboard, communication is key in PSO, and that dinky on-screen keyboard isn't gonna do much for ya. You already spent $50 on the game, what's another $20 for a keyboard?

Now, for the meat of the game, gameplay. PSO has a rather weak story, basically your planet is unfit to live upon so 2 ships of refugees are sent to a new planet, Pioneer 1 and Pioneer 2. Pioneer 1 arrives at the new planet, Ragol, first to set everything up. But when Pioneer 2 arrives at Ragol, the people of Pioneer 1 have disappeared, so it's up to you to find out what happened. You must first create a character, choosing from a Hunter (hand to hand combat), Ranger (guns), or Force (magic) character. You then design your custom character in a fashion similar to that of the WWF create-a-character mode. Once you've finished this you get straight into the game. You battle through each of the four areas, killing just about anything that moves. And this is where you realize the one major flaw of the game, the repetitiveness. You just enter a room, kill everything and then move on, this can get very very very boring after a while. There are no cut-scenes, or character encounters, or anything which resembles a traditional RPG. In fact, after 5 or 6 hours you'll totally forget that you are playing an RPG. But, Sonic Team thinks of everything, and they have found the answer to this extreme boredom, the third word in the title: Online.

The difference between this game online and offline is equivalent to that between night and day. All of the repetitiveness is forgotten online, because you are playing with living, breathing, people. You can talk to them, trade items with them, help them beat that one boss, etc. Friendships are founded, and ?Guild Cards? can be traded to form a type of Buddylist so you can know when your friends are playing. I played using the MSN Internet service, notorious for its lag and load times, but guess what? I received an almost flawless performance every time I played. I can only imagine what it's like to play using Sega Net, which is specially designed for online gaming. Be forewarned, once you play this game online you will find yourself playing ?till one or two in the morning. You will begin to ignore your health, just to play one more hour. This is the premiere online console game, and you'll agree after one hour of PSO.

Besides the actual game, you can also play ?Guild Quests? which are short quests you play in order to earn money. Trivial and easy as they are, they are nice to have around. Especially since you can download new quests to further increase the replay value of PSO.

Any other gripes with the game? Well, besides the fact that it's not too great offline, it was pretty short, but you can play each area hundreds of times before it gets really old. Also, a good amount of cheating goes on in the online world of PSO, in fact some have found a way to kill fellow players and steal their weapons. Also, ?baking? or ?duping? is a big problem, using this technique players can make multiple copies of any item or weapon. Sonic Team has issued some serious threats to cheaters, they may shut down the servers or ban anyone found cheating. And who can blame them? They're just trying to preserve a fun gaming experience for those of us who don't cheat.

Bottom Line
I'd buy this game just for the free Sonic Adventure 2 demo. Seriously though, every Dreamcast owner should buy this game, but with PSO version 2 around the corner, you may wanna wait. As PSO2 will contain all of the above, a versus mode, soccer in the lobbies, hundreds of new weapons, two new areas, and tons of other surprises. Can a game get any better? For now, I'll see you online with this version of PSO!

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